Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Under the OOD's Nose - a 'PC' logistics tale

This bit of arcane naval history might only have applied to suface fleet Postal Clerks, a rating not seen on submarines but on larger surface vessels before April 1, 2010, when with the SK rating it was merged to become "Logistics Specialist' (LS). A more modern update (2008-2009) has been added at the end.

Naval Postal Clerks were suspected of two enviable advantages: Who else would know when a sailor's mail contained ""baked goods or other special treats?; secondly who was always the first to handle the latest editions of Playboy?

On rarer occasions, some PCs might also have profited from the sale of smuggled cigarette cartoons into Sixth Fleet ports. The following excerpts refer to the 1950s and early 1960's era and obviously tell the 'insider's story'.

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At the time, American cigarettes were in great demand in Italy and Greece, with a single pack fetching $1.00 on the local black market. Cartons of cigarettes (with 10 packs) were available from the ship's store for $1.50.

However, the Navy limited each sailor to two cartons per week at the store and officers or high-ranking petty officers searched each sailor going ashore, especially in Italian and Greek ports. Each sailor was allowed one, opened pack of cigarettes when going ashore and this was strictly enforced.

Mailbags going ashore were padlocked and not searched. Officers on either end of the route held keys. Some Postal Clerks that locksmiths could pick the lock and make a 'spare' key. When loading outgoing mail PCs could include cartons galore (often purchased by non-smoking shipmates). The OOD would verify mailbags were padlocked.

Once in port, the PC would visit a blackmarket, open the mailbag(s) and sell the cartons. Afterward, the PC would relock the mailbag(s), and deliver mail as appointed. - U.S.C.S. Log, Feb 2011, The Best Job in the Fleet, Postal Clerk [as told by a friend] by J.G. Eyerman

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WARNING: The following article contains 6 mugshots

UPDATE (): UK Mail Online || Three RAF servicemen jailed for smuggling SEVEN MILLION cigarettes on military flights from the Middle East

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ominous submarine portents - Part 6: Next

Analysis of USS Miami's catastrophic shipyard fire (May 23, 2012) cannot be completed until we learn the fate of the confessed arsonist and related investigatory findings. Jarring new revelations are no longer expected, however. Something problematic is obviously looming.

The value of each U.S. attack submarine (the Virginia class boats serviced by PNS) exceeds $2 Billion each, and inherit security, safety and employment practices regarding Virginias is an order of magnitude more complex than that for most surface vessels. Why then is the ultimate overseer of submarine-related shipyard work not a former submariner?

PORTSMOUTH — (July 25, 2012) Few warning signs in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard arson case [color emphasis added]

Opinion #1
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard should not be blamed for failing to see in accused arsonist Casey Fury any warning signs that might have hinted at his state of mind, a former shipyard commander said Tuesday.
It seems to me that the younger generation (doesn't) display the rather rigorous ethics and common-sense standards that people from previous generations had. In other words, you didn't have to be told you don't light fires because you want to get off early to see your girlfriend... [I]t is possible the Navy will have to tighten some of its hiring procedures, but he noted the shipyard needs some relatively low-skilled, but trained individuals to do certain rudimentary jobs. - Retired Navy Capt. Peter Bowman

Opinion #2
Some observers have said the shipyard should have policies against allowing workers to bring cell phones and lighters aboard a nuclear submarine. Cell phones without cameras and lighters are permitted in the shipyard's industrial area. - including dolphin earners

Opinion #3
We've seen a lot of issues (showing) the importance of mental health in the military. Maybe even shipyards are going to have to be looking at this stuff. On the positive side, the Navy's 'submarine community' has shown it is very good at learning from mistakes. I see no reason to think that this would be an exception. -Eric Wertheim, naval analyst with the U.S. Naval Institute, defense consultant, columnist, author specializing in naval and air force issues; graduate of the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Academy; Reserve Police Officer of the Year in 1997.

Opinion #4
Of the three opinions above, which are sound as far as they go, only #2 was offered by anyone actually qualified as a USN submariner. Of the current Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Commander (Capt. Fuller), and his two immediate predecessors (Captains Mazzone and Bowman) none ever commanded a submarine. The pattern of selection for PNS's commanding officer seems seriously out of kilter with commensurate security, safety and employment issues for USS Miami (a Los Angeles class sub), and $2 billion+ USS Virginia class boats.

Finally, note how Opinion #3 (nonsubmariner) credits the submarine community with "very good at learning from mistakes." The fact is it was not the submarine community that made these mistakes, it was our Congress AND the navy's surface hierarchy. - Vigilis (qualified SSN)

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fate Favors HMAS Farncomb & Minor Leaks

Wednesday 25 July (Australian Eastern Standard Time), while participating in Exercise RIMPAC, HMAS Farncomb suffered a minor flood in one of the submarine's machinery spaces after a hose split. The submarine surfaced in response. The incident has been traced to a split in a hose on the submarine's weight compensation system.

Australia's Defence Force reported that recent flooding in the Collins Class submarine HMAS Farncomb was "minor". The description "minor" was deemed appropriate with good reasons:

1. The sub experienced no related casualties.
2. The sub itself was not sunk.
3. Significant equipment damage has not been reported.
4. Pre-planned procedures were immediately executed and the situation was dealt with quickly.

Potential hazards of flooding in a submerged submarine (HMAS Farncomb was operating at periscope depth) were entirely ignored, however, to a degree most non-submariners might find deceptive:

1. Submarine compartments individually and collectively are "confined spaces" wherein the rapidity of flooding is proportional to depth, and entrapped crew members can potentially be exposed to drowning as well as pressure-related injection, laceration or amputation. Of course, the worst case would be hull rupture beyond crush depth due to subsequent loss of depth control.
2. At periscope depth while charging batteries (as HMAS Farncomb reportedly was), submarines can also be vulnerable to major flooding through improper operation of main induction safety features.
3. The conductivity of seawater in contact with electrical controls and equipment can cause abnormal operability.
4. Seawater in contact with submarine battery cells electrical can generate toxic gas and, in worst cases, explosion.

Fortunately, fate and preparedness favored Farncomb's crew. This was not the first time a similar hose failure occurred in a Collins class sub. Following the failure of a sea water cooling hose in HMAS Dechaineux in 2003, response procedures and equipment were improved. One upgraded involved automated closure of hull valves in similar upsets.

Minor flood is certainly an oxymoron on a submerged submarine. For that matter, the only minor leaks on a submerged sub are connected with crew visits to the head.

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Ominous submarine portents - Part 5: NCIS - USS Miami Arson

Now that NCIS has identified a confessed arsonist in the $400 ($660 Million and counting) USS Miami fire in a PNS drydock, taxpayers may have some tough questions to ask themselves.

Arrested suspect Casey James Fury, 24, was a civilian (unionized) employee working aboard the submarine as a painter and sandblaster (Shop 71P). Shop 71 tradesmen are not covered under The Department of the Navy drug testing as part of the Drug Free Workplace Program (DFWP), nor at the start of the program. Casey's full performance position did not meet criteria for "Testing Designated Position" (TDP). However, he was covered under the Navy's DFWP (Drug Free Workplace Program) and it was mandatory for continued employment that Casey refrain from using illegal drugs and to submit to drug testing.

Let's compare PNS to General Dynamics EB shipyard.
June 13, 2010 - General Dynamics Electric Boat hiring 450 new tradesmen:
Skilled workers must hold U.S. citizenship, be 18 years of age or older and pass both a hair follicle drug test and a comprehensive BCI be able to attain a Government Secret Clearance.

QUESTIONS:
1. Why the apparent drug testing disparity (relative leniency) at PNS versus EB?

2. Are taxpayers getting a raw deal from the government (PNS) shipyard?

3. Will PNS's commandant survive the investigation?

4. Would EB's top shipyard manager survive similar lapses of employment, safety and security policies?

Before considering answers to the rhetorical questions (1. - 4.), please consider the USS Miami fire has already raised PNS's collateral damage assessments and resulted in an added $220 Million request to Congress. Related cost escalations are probably not finished.
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Submarines are always silent and strange.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ominous submarine portents - Part 4: NCIS - USS Miami Sabotage Still Under Consideration

Conclusions drawn by M.E. from NCIS reward amount (Ominous submarine portents - Part 3) have been affirmed.

1. Sabotage has not been ruled out at this time.
2. Additional funds have been requested from Congress ($220 million more than the $400 million)

As reported July 20th by New London's theday.com: Investigators looking at subsequent small blaze, pulling of alarm nearby

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has not ruled out the possibility of a connection between the large blaze that severely damaged the USS Miami, a small fire that later broke out near the submarine and a fire alarm that was pulled.

NCIS spokesman Ed Buice said that while the ongoing investigation has not found evidence that suggests the three incidents are related, "that possibility cannot be eliminated at this time."'

The Navy has asked Congress to add $220 million to the operations and maintenance budget for emergent and unfunded ship repairs, which will be used to continue the repairs on the Miami.

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Submarines are always silent and strange.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Ominous submarine portents - Part 3: Hints from (NCIS) Reward Amounts

July 15, 2012 - KITTERY, Maine - NCIS offers reward for shipyard fire information
A $5,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest in connection with a fire at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in June, according to a news report from WMUR. ... The small fire in the dry dock June 16 was quickly extinguished. The NCIS, according to WMUR, said it's also seeking information about a fire alarm activated in the same area June 19.

Reward Amount Comparison:

October 05, 2009 - (NCIS) Far East field office - NCIS Offers Cash Reward
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Far East field office wants to get the word out about rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people who commit or conspire to commit espionage. The rewards can run as high as $500,000. The program is designed to make the public aware that spies target Naval personnel, and that espionage is a real and dangerous threat.

April 21, 2007 - CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa - NCIS offers reward in Marine's Mugging
A $1,000 reward is being offered for information concerning the brutal beating of a 20-year-old Marine in an Okinawa City club district March 31.

Tentative Conclusions:

1. Espionage is probably NOT suspected in the earlier, catastrophic USS Miami (SSN-775) fire
2. Union (organized labor) dispute probably may be involved [e.g. overtime availibility, working condition dispute].
3. A personal issue (disgruntled employee, sailor) may now be suspected.
4. Arson still be suspected.

Former Speculation Updated:

Ominous submarine portents - Part 1

a) the cleaning subcontract had been awarded to minority-owned company with political connections and little if any shipyard, much less submarine, experience; or,

b) one of the last persons operating the vacuum at the time and in the space of the fire's inception was a minority, an arsonist, an agent of an unfriendly government with a point to make, or an Islamist fascist, whom the government has been habitually loath to identify as such but eager to say "acted alone".

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ominous submarine portents - Part 2 All Investigations Collapsed into One

This installment updates Ominous submarine portents Part 1 (July 02, 2012)

Previously...

USS Miami
"The fire, the Navy said, started when hot welding slag in a vacuum cleaner caught fire when the implement was placed among some cleaning supplies and left unattended." - NavyTimes

Navy leaders have vowed to repair the 22-year-old submarine — which already is scheduled to be taken out of service in 2020 — but no decision is expected until the investigations are complete.


To do this, additional interviews may be conducted as well as additional documentation collected.” - Capt. Chris Sims, for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Norfolk, Va.

snip.....
ME: Why would an approved (or unsupervised unapproved) government shipyard housekeeping subcontractor suck up slag in a vacuum and then store the apparatus unplugged among unspecified, highly flammable (or volatile) cleaning supplies stored on a US nuclear sub during welding or cutting work? Two prominent possibilities are evident, but have not been addressed publicly.

News... (July 11, 2012)...

The Bangor Daily News, KITTERY, Maine — Jim Haddadin, Foster's Daily Democrat [bold and color emphasis added by ME]

Investigators believe the fire was started by an undisclosed “heat source” that was sucked into a shop vacuum, igniting the debris within...

All investigations currently under way regarding the fire will be collapsed under the jurisdiction of the new panel, according to information provided by a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command this week. They include the ongoing investigations run by Naval Sea Systems Command and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The panel will also have the authority to request “any other available information necessary to obtain a complete understanding of the event,” according to the Fleet Forces Command spokesman. That could include conducting supplemental interviews and collecting documentation related to the fire.

The Navy has approximated the damage to the submarine at $400 million, plus another $40 million for so-called “secondary effects,” such as disruption to other planned work across all Navy shipyards and the potential need to hire private contractors...

snip.....
ME: Just as predicted 9 days ago (in Part 1), the underestimated cost to taxpayers has already increased by $40 million (10%) with the latest news report. The slag reported by NavyTimes earlier (in Part 1) as the fire initiator, is now redescribed as an undisclosed “heat source”.

It now appears that PNSY will have less of an investigative role in the new panel than it may have contributed earlier to safety and subcontractor factors, and may also become subject to gross negligence investigations itself. As taxpayers, we recognize that had the catastrophe occurred in a private yard (EB) instead of a government yard (PNS) the Navy could have sued on behalf of taxpayers for loss recovery. PNS's chain of command must be considered potentially conflicted in whatever mitigating details they provided that cannot be substantiated by hard evidence.

Of PNS's Shipyard Commander, Deputy Commander, and Command Master Chief, only the CMC has actual submarine service. The Deputy Commander has tender and skimmer experience, and the shipyard commander was a skimmer. This investigation is going to be very interesting on many levels.

As we posited (in Part 1) major questions are yet unanswered:

a) the cleaning subcontract had been awarded to minority-owned company with political connections and little if any shipyard, much less submarine, experience; or,

b) one of the last persons operating the vacuum at the time and in the space of the fire's inception was a minority, an arsonist, an agent of an unfriendly government with a point to make, or (hat tip to Juan Caruso) an Islamist fascist, whom the government has been habitually loath to identify as such but eager to say "acted alone".

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Satan's Inconvenient Prediction (6 month's?)

Suppose this month's record-breaking high temperatures around the U.S. are more than long overdue signs of Al Gore's debunked Inconvenient Truth.

Suppose Satan wished to assure that Americans feel and remember the hellish climate adjustments in what is certain to become Al Gore's eternal abode.

Since typical Americans are known for somewhat short attention spans, how close would Satan's latest signs be to Mr. Gore's appointment with posterity eternity?

Your guess is as good as Juan Caruso's:


Submarine's are always silent and strange.

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